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Wednesday, May 29, 2002

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Kerala: Railway project progress hinges on Govt support

G.K. Nair

KOCHI, May 28

IF the Government shares the cost of Railway projects and the public co-operates, especially in acquisition of land, all proposed projects could be completed in time, according to senior Railway sources.

One of the important projects that needs to be completed urgently is the doubling of Ernakulam-Kottayam-Kayamkulam line because of the heavy traffic involved in this section, they said.

"Currently, 128 per cent of the capacity of the existing single line in this section is used. Therefore, its doubling is essential for the smooth and faster movement of the trains.''

For instance, Madras Mail runs up to Ernakulam as express and then crawls as passenger till Kayamkulam because of pressure on traffic.

To ease the pressure, the Railways had taken up doubling the 17-km stretch of this section between Ernakulam and Mulanthuruthy at an estimated cost of Rs 35 crore.

Doubling the line up to Kottayam might involve an investment of Rs 150 crore and electrification of this section would have no meaning unless doubling was done, the sources said.

This work would involve acquisition of land and eviction of encroachers en route and these factors also would delay the completion of the project.

"As is done in other Southern States, like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, if the State Government shares the cost apart from making available the land, the project could be completed smoothly.''

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Railways, Mr O. Rajagopal, said that the Railways had chalked out a number of developmental projects, but due to financial constraints, all of them could not be taken up.

If the Kerala Government is ready to bear half of the total cost of the doubling work of the Ernakulam-Kayamkulam section both via Kottayam and Alappuzha, this project would soon become a reality, he added.

Though the final location survey was in progress on the much talked about 145-km Angamaly-Sabarimala line, problems relating to land acquisition could surface.

"However, there is no problem in the Angamaly-Perumbavoor section of the project but beyond that, we have noticed opposition to land acquisition.''

Gauge conversion of the 90-km Kollam-Punalur-Shenkotta line has also been taken up.

While the construction work is making steady progress in Tamil Nadu, it is moving at snail's pace in Kerala as it involves a detour from the existing line, which involves acquisition of land.

The sources said that the most neglected area in the Thiruvananthapuram division is the Thiruvananthapuram-Nagercoil section, where doubling of the line has become a problem.

"It is a clear evidence of lack of foresight. When land was acquired long back for laying the present line, the authorities did not have the vision that it would have to be doubled some day.''

Given the importance of the State as a tourist destination, apart from the large number of Keralites travelling out daily, development of the Railway network is imperative.

But its speedy implementation is possible only with the support and co-operation of the State Government and the people, they added.

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